Leeds United and Republic of Ireland football legend Jack Charlton died last week, aged 85. May he rest in peace. He was a legend as a player for Leeds (773 appearances, a club record) and for England (a World Cup winner in 1966) and was by some distance the most succesful manager in the history of Ireland’s national team. He led them to the European Championships in 1988 and the World Cup in 1990 and 1994.
If you follow football at all you probably know all of this already. His death completes an unhappy hat-trick of Leeds defenders who won League titles in the club’s glory days. Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry both died in April. Hunter played at centre-back in the League-winning sides of 1969 (alongside Charlton) and 1974. Cherry (who played at left-back) was a member of that 1974 title-winning team.
The death of Jack Charlton has also changed the balance of England’s 1966 World Cup winning XI: more of the team are now dead than alive. Only five of the team are still with us. Knowing who played at Wembley that day (30 July 1966, no need to look up that date) can be considered general knowledge here in the UK. One of my favourite questions on ITV quiz show “Tenable” challenged the contestants to name the 10 England outfield players in the 1966 Football World Cup final. I named all 10, tentatively, when the episode first aired in October 2017, and can do so with more confidence now: Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Bobby Moore and George Cohen in defence; Ray Wilson, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Alan Ball in midfield; Roger Hunt and Geoff Hurst up front. Gordon Banks, who died in February 2019, was in goal.
When the episode first aired, Bobby Moore and Alan Ball were the only members of the team who were no longer alive. We have since lost another four players, two of them in the last seven months. Here, for the record, are the dates when all six of them moved on:
- Bobby Moore (24 February 1993, aged 51)
- Alan Ball (25 April 2007, aged 61)
- Ray Wilson (15 May 2018, aged 83)
- Gordon Banks (12 February 2019, aged 81)
- Martin Peters (21 December 2019, aged 76)
- Jack Charlton (10 July 2020, aged 85)
Sadly this list will only get longer, but not, I hope, for some time to come.